The dawn of a new console generation must be agony for developers on a deadline. Do they stick with the older, more familiar systems that have huge install bases, or take a run at the newer, gruntier hardware and risk producing a less polished product? It’s a hell of a choice to make, and the fact that Sony first-party developer Polyphony opted to keep Gran Turismo on the PlayStation 3 for one more game shows just how tricky that next-gen leap obviously is.
For those living under a rock for the past 15 years, Gran Turismo is the pre-eminent racer of the PlayStation platform, and it has two consistent traits. There are always two primary titles per generation, and more digital cars than you can shake a stick at. Unsurprisingly, Gran Turismo 6 sticks with tradition.
The meat and three veggies of Gran Turismo has always been GT mode, which is now simply labelled in the six traditional grades of Novice through to Super. As with every previous Gran Turismo, the higher grades are unlocked with license tests, but GT6 has partially incorporated these into the race class the player is currently in. To complete a license test, a set number of stars must be earned, and the player gets one for event completion, two for a podium, and three for a win. When the star goal has been met, the license tests unlock. There are fewer tests overall, and the game feels like it has a more natural progression than its forefathers.
Soon the hallmarks of the series show themselves. Firstly, the damage model is similar to that used in Gran Turismo 5, but it isn’t a full model unlike that in Forza. Secondly, the AI will stick religiously to its line, even if it means abandoning self-preservation to shunt the player. Equally worryingly, the rolling start returns, so one of the most critical aspects of the race is taken out of the driver’s control. There is no need to balance the throttle to lessen the likelihood of wheel spin – you’re already travelling at 100km/h before you are granted control.
No self-respecting racing game is complete without a number of tracks to compete on, and here Gran Turismo 6 excels. There are more than 40 on offer, from classics such as Grand Valley and Trial Mountain to real life tracks such as the F1’s Spa-Francorchamps and even – for the first time ever – Bathurst.
Then there’s the sheer number of cars. However, as in previous titles, many of them are variations of the same car. This is great if you own the car in real life, but the actual driving differences between many is barely noticeable at best. On top of that, approximately two-thirds are upgraded versions of the assets used in Gran Turismo 4 on the PlayStation 2.
It’s not all bad though; there are many more Premium models present than in Gran Tursimo 5, and these are of a much higher standard. It just seems strange that the emphasis is still on quantity rather than quality, particularly given the notorious perfectionism of Gran Turismo producer Kazunori Yamauchi.
Elsewhere, quantity is the game’s best feature. There are many races to complete in the six different race grades, hours of individual races to be completed just to unlock them all, and then also the challenge of achieving three stars on each. If that gets too much, there is a more relaxed arcade mode with the usual suspects within: Single Race, Time Trial, and Drift Trial. There are also cone challenges, mission races, lunar races, and single make events, and a new event called the Goodward Festival of Speed.
And let’s not forget online mode, which now requires a National A license – a welcome change. Here you’ll find limited timeframe Seasonal Events, as well as online racing proper. Joining a lobby for the latter is simple, but there is no indication given whether a lobby is in session or not, which often results in a frustrating wait that the inclusion of a simple icon could prevent.
There have been some other changes implemented since Gran Turismo 5, the biggest being to the mandatory install system. Gran Turismo 6 installs assets on the fly, so that initial 45-minute install its predecessor suffered under is nowhere to be seen. This comes at a cost later in the game though, as the higher grades come with more cars, so players might find themselves staring a loading screen for two minutes immediately following a grade unlock.
One final niggle appeared after the game’s Day One patch, and sometimes causes HUD information and engine sounds to pop in a few seconds after a race starts. It would also be remiss not to mention the microtransactions and the cost of some of the game’s more exclusive cars. However, prize money is rewarded as it always has been, so there is no need to reach for your credit card.
So despite a few issues, Gran Turismo 6 is a strong title and a fitting end for the franchise on PlayStation 3. However, with numerous updates and DLC on the way, Gran Turismo 6 has a lot more life left. Hopefully this time, Polyhony can buff out some of the deeper chinks in Gran Turismo’s armour.